BELOIT - "It has been a year of growth, structure and partnership."
Those were the words of Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Aimee Thurner as she welcomed more than 500 guests who attended the 92nd Annual Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce Dinner Tuesday at the Eclipse Center.
The evening featured award presentations honoring businesses and individuals in the Stateline Area, as well as an inspiring presentation by former National Football League wide receiver and author Brandon Williams.
The theme for the chamber dinner was "The Power of Purpose," and Williams stressed the theme during his talk with the audience.
He encouraged people to live a purposeful life, and that way they all can make the world better.
"I truly believe we all have been sent to this earth to do something special," he said.
He noted that he believed for years that his purpose was to play football. But when his football career was over, he had to reassess his life and find his true purpose. He now believes he has found that.
"My true purpose is to help men be better men," he said.
Several individuals were honored during the evening who had made it their purpose to make the community a better place to live for all residents.
The Ken Hendricks Community Spirit Award went to Stateline Community Foundation Executive Director Tara Tinder. She not only has been the leader of the charitable foundation since 1993, but she has served the community through her involvement in other agencies and boards, including the Beloit City Council, Greater Beloit Area Crimestoppers and Literacy for Life.
Large Business of the Year went to Beloit Health System. The health system, which includes Beloit Memorial Hospital, Beloit Clinic, Beloit Regional Hospice and NorthPointe Health and Wellness, employs 1,600 people and is going to be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the hospital being located on Hart Road.
Small Business of the Year went to the Beloit Hotel Group, which includes the Hampton Inn and the recently completed Home2 Suites.
The Environmental Leadership Award went to Regal, which has emphasized efforts to protect the environment and produce environmentally-sound products.
The Economic Development Award went to the Rock County Internship Program, which helps high school students get on a career path through partnerships with area businesses and education institutions. More than 60 students have applied for this coming summer's program.
The Chairperson's Award went to Rob Hendrickson, of Frito Lay, who serves on the chamber board, but also works to help young people become workplace ready.
The Ambassador of the Year Award went to Paulette Christensen, who passed away last year. She volunteered not only for the Ambassadors, but for her church and other groups. Because of her charitable nature and dedication, the award has been renamed the Paulette Christensen Ambassador of the Year Award.
Rising Professional of the Year went to Namoonga Mantina, a chamber board member and health and wellness coordinator for Beloit College.